Balance Development in Rowing and Canoeing Using Specialized Simulators in View of Theoretical Analysis


L.A. Zelenin, associate professor, Ph.D.
Perm national research polytechnic university, Perm

Key words: motor coordination ability, space and time body balance, effective muscle force distribution, balancing in motor activity, rowing and canoeing, analyzers.

In rowing and canoeing a certain body balance is required to perform rowing actions. It is impossible to reach a certain level of mastery of the effective technique of a motor action without the relevant level of development of maintaining the body’s position in the balance space [1, 10, 12, 13, 16].

Balance is one of the main types of motor coordination to be trained by rowers when learning and training [7, 8, 12, 15].

The purpose of the study was the theoretical validation of the system of maintaining balance in rowing and canoeing.

Results and discussion. Based on the findings we designed a system of balance development, where motor actions (walking, jumps, multiple jumps, turns and rotations) are correlated with maintaining balance. It actively provides normal functioning of all physiological systems of the body, stimulates the manifestation of the optimal range of movements, determines the rational distribution of muscle efforts, resulting in more rational energy expenditure and efficient motor activity in maintaining balance [8].

Training devices are a part of the system for developing the ability for balance maintenance; these devices promote the dynamic development of all physiological systems of the body, develop amplitude, rate and rhythm of rowing movements, optimize efficient collocation of body parts, and thereby provide balance maintenance. The accomplishment of particular preparatory exercises aimed at balance improvement significantly increases the space body balance ability and directly affects balance during canoeing. Rowing and canoeing, particularly the latter, demands a high ability for the body to balance in a boat, so the development of a particular (water) balance is needed (this balance is related to water sports which demand an effective ability for body balancing in a boat along with carrying out complex movements).

The designed training devices promote the development of rower’s balance ability that provides successful transition from a device to a real boat on water. The developed system of particular physical exercises at the devices promotes much faster and more qualitative balancing improvement, and promotes an efficient acquirement of the rowing technique. The exercises improve space and time orientation, and stimulate maintaining of the body balance in various positions (on both legs, on one leg and then the other, and in the canoe position). Insufficient level of the body balance greatly impedes mastering efficient rowing techniques; training devices are used to develop and improve this particular (water) balance ability. Hence, body balance is one of the major motor coordination abilities, and it should be continuously improved, starting from the first training session using a rowing machine [6, 7, 8, 11, 14].

Body balance is a certain position of the body in space and time, that counteracts the Earth’s gravity. The better rower overcomes and uses gravitational force; the more efficiently he maintains body balance, and the rowing devices help in this [6, 8].

One of the means to maintain the body balance consists in overcoming gravity by bringing the body’s center of gravity closer to the boat seat. Various exercises for balance development help to achieve efficient collocation of all body parts in space. For instance, crouch walking with arms spread apart on a timber floor of 300-400 mm diameter is more effective for maintaining balance than just conventional walking. Efficient collocation of body parts both at static and dynamic activities is one of the most important constituents in balancing.

In the “Explanatory dictionary of sports terms” body balance is defined as a condition of stable body position in static and dynamic states [16].

According to L.D. Nazarenko, body balance is an ability to maintain a stable position of the body and its parts at supported and unsupported stages of a motor act [13].

V.M. Zatsiorsky defines balance as an ability to maintain stable body position at various movements and poses [7].

Carrying out various physical exercises aimed at balance improvement provides the emergence of efficient techniques of rowing movements with further accelerated mastering of theses techniques on the training device, that, according to N.A. Bernstein [2, 3], favors an efficient energy preservation. Not all energy used for rowing is useful, since a part of this energy is spent overcoming resistant forces. Insufficient movement coordination deteriorates the rowing technique and increases wasted energy. The maintenance of body balance is related to minimization of the number of degrees of freedom, that heightens the body equilibrium [14]. Stable equilibrium is an ability of a mechanical system to retrieve initial state after a minor perturbation.

The system of balance development includes motor activity in various directions, actualizing hundreds of degrees of freedom; nonetheless, the efficient activity is characterized primarily by a low number of degrees of freedom and by a proper rowing technique. A number of degrees of freedom (more than 20) are activated during rowing exercises on a training machine, that makes movement control difficult. The movements implemented using the rowing machine allow to significantly lower the number of movement errors, and to prevent continuous retraining that is inevitable at the convenient rowers’ training. The reduction of degrees of freedom in a motor exercise results in muscle retention. Therefore, maintaining balance during a rowing machine workout is impossible without the minimization of the number of degrees of freedom of the motor system [2, 3].

Rowing sports, particularly kayaking and canoeing, are characterized by static and dynamic balance maintenance. At such maintenance the rower’s body is not fixed, it is continuously swinging. The rower “loses” equilibrium for a moment and then restores it again. Fine balance belongs not to one who never loses it, but to one who promptly finds it again.

Based on the theory and technique of physical culture and sports training, as well as on our long-term pedagogic experience, we can conclude the need for introducing the definition of static persistence of balance: it is the coordination ability of a rower to maintain a stable vertical body position in the static pose of canoeist for a long time, despite difficult biomechanical conditions, wherein balancing by means of faint movements of the front leg and drawing back the pelvis, along with carrying out complex rowing motions.

The system of balance development consists mainly of exercises aimed at the development of space body balance. During those exercises the muscles are very stressed and they concentrate maximum effort to maintain balance. The machines for balance development promote mastering of rowing technique, and provide intra- and intermuscular coordination with the conditions of body parts being maintained. For example, the canoeist needs high activity of the back, arms, core, and leg muscles; continuous use and redistribution of the muscle efforts aimed at balance maintenance occur.

The designed system of balance improvement provides the maintenance of body balance that determines the level of orientation in space. The higher this level, the easier it is to maintain balance. The space orientation during rowing at the machines determines movements of the body and its parts under conditions of rowing simulation.

The motion accuracy is of great importance when particular exercises aimed at balance maintenance are practised. For example, the rowing technique comprises a cycle of structured and accurate movements, and the information about its parameters is fed to a control block through particular channels.

The concepts of “balance feeling”, “water feeling”, “sliding feeling”, “boat feeling” are at the heart of rowing technique; these concepts are intimately related to the complex of functional systems that allows controlling the rowing movements and the body balance at the training devices as well. Some elements of exercises at the rowing machines are recommended to be fulfilled with eyes closed, that is much more complicated than with open eyes.

Hence, the designed system of special physical exercises which is intended to develop balance using training simulators was proved to be effective in development of the proper balance level via effective collocation of body parts, minimizing degrees of freedom of the motor system, timely distribution and redistribution of muscle efforts with high level of space orientation, which is impossible without the corresponding physical and special training.

The role of the cerebellum cannot be forgotten, it has a vast number of nervous connections and takes an active part in numerous acts of maintaining balance. There is a reason to believe that the cerebellum is a higher regulatory center, where all proprioceptive and vestibular impulses gather via the nervous motor cell system and via the system of various analyzers (vegetative organs, visual, nervous and muscular systems) [4, 15].

The roles of analyzers in balance control are different. Motor analyzer is essential when performing motor actions for maintaining balance. But visual, vestibular, tactile, vegetative and kinesthetic analyzers are also involved, being actively related to specific sport.

Conclusion. The exercises aimed at the balance development on land, along with special preparatory exercises fulfilled at training machines, enhance the output of a rower’s muscular efforts. The beginners in rowing waste effort to maintain balance as compared to trained athletes.


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